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Traditional guardians of Philippines forest break ground on green power project

June 26, 2024

Seacology projects are often found in hard-to-reach places. Our support of remote, rural island communities can fill a critical need in places where government support and outside investment are hard to come by. 

A case in point is our project in Sitio Lapat, a community at the edge of a dense forest in the rural north of Luzon Island in the Philippines. Seacology is funding a new micro-hydro system to provide reliable, clean electricity for the village. Villagers are far from any large population centers or major infrastructure, so access to renewable energy will make a huge difference. 

Built in collaboration with longtime project partner Green Empowerment, the system will not only electrify homes, but also provide power for a school and a health center where cold storage is needed for medicines. In exchange for Seacology’s investment, the indigenous Isnag community will expand its ongoing protection of more than 1,200 acres of sensitive forest, which contains streams that will power the micro-hydro system. 

Last month Ferdie Marcelo, our field representative for the Philippines, made the arduous trek to Sitio Lapat to break ground on the project. After a trip filled with winding gravel roads, vehicle breakdowns, and bad weather, Sito Lapat’s commitment to the forest and the project was immediately evident. Villagers had already dug the two-kilometer canal that will carry water from the source to the site of the small hydroelectric turbine. Many people had walked miles through the forest, carrying construction materials by hand. 

Residents of Sitio Lapat have been manually transporting construction materials over difficult terrain for the project.

Seacology Field Representative Ferdie Marcelo, right, joins community leaders to break ground for the project.

As Ferdie details in a recent blog post, the name lapat itself is a reference to the villagers’ deep concern for the land:

They are known to practice lapat, an indigenous resource management system that declares a specific natural resource, such as a river or a section of the forest, as protected. These customary laws are passed down from every generation to the next.

Ferdie joined local leaders for a celebration featuring traditional Isnag drumming and dance to officially break ground on the project. Work is now moving forward quickly.

We’re confident that our partnership with the people of Sito Lapat will not only help protect this pristine island ecosystem, but also make a real difference in the quality of life for the villagers as they pass their unique traditions, including lapat, to future generations.